St. Louis is expected to receive a half-billion dollars in the latest round of federal coronavirus relief funding this spring — the largest amount of any city or county in Missouri.
That’s at least twice the amount going to Kansas City and St. Louis County, the next-highest projected allocations. The federal government calculated funding to cities based on poverty rates, unemployment and housing quality, not population.
The relief money from the so-called American Rescue Plan could make up for around $90 million in revenue St. Louis lost during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as help with housing, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said during a press conference Monday.
“There is a looming housing crisis, a looming eviction crisis,” Krewson said. “And so a lot of our funds we expect to be used to help the unhoused population, help people that have lost their jobs.”
Officials are waiting on specific regulations for the money from the U.S. Treasury Department, but general guidelines exist.
Krewson developed a framework for how the relief money could be spent, but the next mayor will be the one actually involved in spending the money, along with other city officials. The election is April 6.
Mayoral candidate and city Treasurer Tishaura Jones said she would prioritize using relief money for renter and mortgage assistance, small-business assistance and homeless services, as well as a “small portion” to fund an oversight committee to “ensure equitable allocation.” Her mayoral opponent, Alderwoman Cara Spencer, said that the $500 million award is a “once-in-a-century” opportunity and that she would put the money toward stabilizing housing in the short term and investing in workforce development in the long run.
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, said the $500 million is vital for her district, which includes St. Louis and north St. Louis County.
"It’s going to actually transform a lot for our communities, and I think that we will start to see the effects of that very soon," Bush said.
St. Louis County will get around $190 million.
On Monday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he expected the money to go to such needs as food distribution and bolstering the county’s vaccine infrastructure. He said it may also go toward “programs for the economic recovery.”
“We still have a large group of people in our community that are hesitant to accept the vaccine,” Page said. “And then we have a large section of our community that can’t just drive to a vaccination center. We’ll be going to some of them.”
The money comes a little less than a year after a high-profile dispute in the county over who should be responsible for dividing up COVID-19 relief.
Last year, the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 to give Page authority to spend coronavirus relief funds. That move meant that Page didn’t have to get approval from the council on how his administration was spending roughly $173 million in federal money.
But Page no longer has a majority of support on the council. And one member who voted to give Page the power to spend the money, now-Council Chairwoman Rita Days, D-Bel Nor, has become a fierce critic of the county executive — especially on how he’s handled the pandemic in largely Black areas of the county.
Asked if the Rescue Plan funding would be spent similarly to the earlier federal money, basically without the council approving individual line items, Page replied, “I expect that programming will be similar to what we saw before, but certainly the council will have the opportunity to provide more detail, and that’s what I would expect.”
Nearly $78 million is expected to go to St. Charles County, around $43 million to Jefferson County and $20 million to Franklin County, the Missouri Budget Project estimated. Kansas City will receive $195 million, the second-highest city after St. Louis.
The plan will send federal money directly to cities and counties with more than 50,000 residents, while smaller municipalities will get allocations from the state.
Missouri is receiving $5.4 billion for state and local aid out of the $1.9 trillion relief package.
The federal government will send the first half of relief money to local governments by May 11. The second half will be sent within a year. The act requires governments to spend all of the money by Dec. 31, 2024.
Last May, St. Louis received $35 million in relief aid, which did not allow local governments to spend money on budget deficits.
Without the latest package, St. Louis Budget Director Paul Payne estimated St. Louis wouldn't have fully recovered until 2024.
“It’s not just one shot,” Payne said. “It’s something that has to be deliberative and looking at what could be most impactful and allocating it that way.”
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